Chaparral HS stumbles amid flurry of football upsets

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                </div>  We’re just a couple of weeks into a new high school football season, but things are beginning to shake out already. The biggest scramble came in Division II, where […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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We’re just a couple of weeks into a new high school football season, but things are beginning to shake out already.

The biggest scramble came in Division II, where three of the top five teams were upset.  In Division III, the top two teams will likely now change places following No. 2 Paradise Valley High‘s 33-21 win over No. 1 Desert Edge High School. 

And in Division I, No. 5 Chaparral High‘s loss couldn’t be called an upset because the Firebirds lost to No. 1 Chandler High School.  However, it’s still a setback for a perennial power that is used to winning and has a tradition to protect.  The fact that it was a home loss is even more difficult for the Chaparral fans that made up a large part of the overflow crowd on hand for the game.

Despite the fact that Chaparral moved up from Division II to D-I play this season, and every team on its 2015 schedule was a playoff contender in their respective divisions last season, expectations are high for the Firebirds who are coming off a 9-4 season and advanced to the state semifinals before losing to Centennial High School, which went on to win it all.

After all, this is a team that has been dominant in recent years, winning three consecutive state championships from 2009-11 and six of the last 15 titles.  Fan expectations are high each season and a step up to the top division hasn’t changed that.  In fact, the excitement has only grown because now they have a chance to prove they can play with the big boys.

Saguaro returned a core of key-position players that includes junior Grayson Barry, who started six games last year, a starting tight end (Christian Skeptaris), wide receiver (Gianni Thomas), and senior running backs Kurt Shughart and Spencer Greenberg.  Their offensive line is experienced, and the defense includes two starting linebackers from 2014.

Chaparral won its opener by a slim three points against a California team, so Chandler is the first in-state team to test them.  Nothing like starting at the top, with the defending D-I state champion.

What the Firebirds discovered right away was they weren’t ready for the kind of defense Chandler sent against them.

Barry connected on fewer than half his pass attempts (10-of-24) and managed just 130 yards through the air, which may have been due in part to the fact that he injured the elbow on his throwing arm early in the game.

Not only did the Wolves’ pass rush dog Barry all night and the secondary make it difficult for his receivers, but their defensive line bottled up the run.  Greenberg was the Firebirds’ leading rusher with 79 yards on 17 carries, while Shughart picked up just 47 yards.

Greenberg accounted for Chaparral’s only TD, scoring on a 15-yard run not long after halftime.

Chandler’s quarterback, Mason Moran, also had his issues with injury.  With stitches in his hand that kept him out of practices all week, the 6’3″ senior relied more heavily on his running ability, leading the Wolves with 113 yards – but still picked up 94 yards through the air.

Chaparral will try to get back on track Friday in a game against Desert Edge.  The Scorpions are a Division III team, but after losing the No. 1 spot to PV last week, they are going to be just as motivated as the Firebirds – and a dangerous opponent that features a second-year quarterback behind a huge offensive line that is one of the best in the state.

Desert Edge lost to PV, but the Trojans were a Division I team last year that made it to the state quarterfinals.

If the Scorpions can avoid the four turnovers and damaging penalties that plagued them against PV, and running back Rocky Perez can turn in another performance like the 134 yards he picked up in that game, they could be troublesome for Chaparral.

The teams shaking up Division II last week included Pinnacle High School, which upset No. 1 Saguaro High, 20-12; Horizon High, which edged out No. 2 Mountain View High School (Marana), 40-37; and Desert Vista High, which stomped on No. 4 Williams Field High School, 31-7.

Saguaro’s loss was perhaps the most noteworthy because the Sabercats lost the week before to Centennial, which is the reigning D-II state champion and moved up to D-I this year – where they are ranked No. 2.  That loss made headlines because Centennial broke Saguaro’s 28-game winning streak, the longest in the state.

Now, the loss to Pinnacle has them off to a 1-2 start to the season, a tough pill to swallow for a team that didn’t lose any games last season on its way to the Division III state title.

But there are going to be plenty more bitter pills for a lot of teams going forward as the rankings continue to shake out and separate the early contenders from the early pretenders.